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Columbia, Greene lawmakers press for public defender relief

Nov 15, 2016 7:15 am

Greg Hudson is reporting in the Register-Star the legislative bodies in both Columbia and Greene counties have passed resolutions urging Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to take action that would ease the burden on individual counties to pay for public defenders. Individuals charged with a crime who cannot afford to pay for legal counsel are entitled under the U.S. Constitution to be defended by an appointed attorney paid for by the state. In New York, that obligation has shifted to the county level. "We’ve always been responsible for the program. It’s a non-funded program the state tells us we have to do," Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. Both Columbia and Greene counties have succeeded in funding their public defender programs in recent years, but the state has now raised the eligibility level for court-appointed representation. "They raised the income levels that would make people eligible for indigent defense, Anybody who has income under $47,000 a year is eligible for free representation," Groden said. Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed the Public Defense Mandate Relief Act. If signed into law the bill would require the state to reimburse counties for the expenses they incur in maintaining a public defender program. That bill is currently on Cuomo's desk awaiting signature. Read the full story in the Register-Star.